Fitness & Wellness

Healthy Shopping Tips

Healthy Shopping Tips

Probably the first on the list of healthy shopping tips for the grocery is to always eat before you go. While the family-size Doritos or big bags of M&Ms will still look good, you’ll be full enough to resist buying them. If they aren’t in the house, you’ll be far less likely to eat them. With that said, also remember to include on your list some options for healthy snacks. They’re just as important for weight loss as they are for good health.

You don’t always have to have fresh fruits and vegetables to get the most nutrients for your dollar.

While fresh vegetables look delicious and taste that way, too, if you’re cooking a meal, frozen or canned veggies will do. In most cases, they are healthy, as long as the only ingredient is the vegetable. In the case of canned veggies and fruit, water packed without added sugar or salt is okay. Frozen fruits and vegetables may actually be healthier. That’s because they’re processed right from the field. Unlike fresh veggies that often have to travel miles to the grocery, then sit on the shelf until you buy them, they aren’t picked early and are far fresher.

Save money and only get organic fruits or vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list.

The EWG—Environmental Working Group—samples hundreds of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables from around the country, looking for higher levels of 230 different pesticides. The produce is washed thoroughly and sometimes peeled, then tested. If the level of these chemicals. Is high, they’re placed on the Dirty Dozen list, which has grown for some years to the Dirty Dozen plus one. If they show no signs or minimal amounts, they are placed in the Clean 15 group. Fruits and vegetables on the Clean 15 list don’t need to be organic to be low in pesticides or pesticide-free, so you can purchase the cheaper non-organic variety.

Read the label!

Look for added sugar and high sodium levels and avoid those products. For instance, peanut butter should only have one item, peanuts. The fewer the ingredients, the better. Remember, if you can’t pronounce the ingredients or it looks like a chem lab exam, it shouldn’t go in your shopping cart. Read the labels and opt for the ones that are lower in sodium, added sugar and saturated fat.

  • Plan your meals for the week and do meal prep on the weekend. Make a shopping list and stick with what’s on the list. It helps to save money by using leftovers and saves time by cooking everything at once.
  • Always check the use-by date on the label. If it’s close to expiration and you’re using it right away, it’s not a problem. Recently, many people have found items on the shelves past use-by dates, which may have occurred due to shipping problems.
  • If you’re buying canned chicken, meat or fish, make sure it’s packed in water, not in oil. Check the label to make sure it doesn’t contain salt or at least has a lower sodium level.
  • Most tree nuts and seeds are healthy options that add extra protein to your diet. If you find them at a low price, stock up. You can store extras in air-tight containers or freeze them. For example, pecans can be frozen for up to two years.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness

Meal Plan Like A Pro

Meal Plan Like A Pro

People who come to Next Level Fitness in Irvine, CA, know that they’re getting more than a gym. One benefit offered is nutrition education. Eating healthy is just as important, if not more important, than exercise. Knowing the healthiest foods can only help you if you eat them, but too often, life can become too busy and overwhelming. That’s often when people opt for fast foods and unhealthy, but quick, options. If you choose to meal plan you won’t have that problem. You’ll have meals ready to heat and serve during the busy work week in less time than it takes to get drive-through food.

It takes time at first, but it’s worth it.

Using the information provided through nutritional counseling, you’re armed with all you need to start planning your meals. Midweek, plan the meals for the following week using the nutritional guidance we provide. Some apps are available that can help, if you want more help. Make sure you include snacks in your meal plan. If you don’t, you might find yourself grabbing options that are far less healthy at the gas station/convenience store or from the office vending machine.

Try to use meats and vegetables several ways throughout the week.

Are you having roasted chicken for one meal? Use the leftover chicken for chicken salad and the bones for soup on another day. Maybe you have roasted veggies with the chicken. They can top a baby green spring salad or add to a Buddha bowl. Once you plan the meals, make a grocery list, then check the fridge and the cupboards to make sure you don’t already have those ingredients. Some people work it in reverse, checking cans and freezer items for use-by dates and creating a menu around those items close to their use by-date.

Shop on a Friday night, making certain you go after you eat dinner.

That’s an important key to both saving money and staying healthier. If you’re full that snack aisle doesn’t call your name, nor does the pastry aisle beckon you. Spend the weekend cooking. It doesn’t have to take all day. You can cook several meals at once in your oven, chop all the veggies at once and bag some for snacks. Some people have crockpots, stove tops, ovens and microwaves going all at once, so several meals are cooking at one time. That cuts overall kitchen time in half. Once everything is prepared, put the food in individual containers to heat and serve.

  • If you have bones left over, but not enough for bone broth, put them in a labeled freezer bag and save them until you have enough for making broth. Bone broth is filled with nutrients. It’s a healthier option for a soup base or can be consumed by the cupful as a snack.
  • You can double the recipe and make enough to store for later. Always put a date and what you made on your freezer container. You may think you’ll remember, but most people don’t.
  • Having snacks available is important, especially if you have goals to reach. Have fresh fruit, veggies and dip, trail mix, popcorn or other healthy snacks ready for those times. Items like cantaloupe should be cut and ready to eat.
  • Is saving money part of the game plan? Try a meatless Monday and plan meals around seasonal fruits and vegetables. When making the grocery list, check online for sales at stores close to you and look for coupons.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness

Is Cardio Enough For Weight Loss?

Is Cardio Enough For Weight Loss?

You may have heard that cardio burns tons of calories and is great for weight loss. That’s partially true, but not the entire story. Just doing cardio doesn’t improve all types of fitness. You need strength, balance and flexibility training, too. Cardio also isn’t the only type of training that burns lots of calories. Strength training will also torch those calories quickly. Strength-building also has other benefits that make it a great option for your weight loss program.

Cardio builds your endurance, which builds your energy level.

That’s important. If you’re out dancing, you’ll burn more calories the longer you dance and the same is true of running or any activity. Cardio not only increases how long you can work out, but also boosts the intensity level. You need more, though. You need flexibility training to increase your range of motion and prevent injury. You also need balance and strength training to help prevent falls. Some cardio can provide all of that, but running isn’t one of those things.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner.

What’s the best type of workout for weight loss and calorie burning? It’s strength training. Strength training burns a high amount of calories, while also building muscle tissue. In other words, it targets fat! When you do just cardio, it’s indiscriminate about where it gets the calories, burning both fat and lean muscle tissue. That means you’ll have less muscle tissue and muscle tissue requires more calories for maintenance. The less you have, the lower your resting metabolic rate. That makes it harder to lose weight.

Do strength training to look your best.

Why do people want to lose weight? One reason is to look thinner. When you’re doing strength training and toning muscles, you can stay the same weight and still look thinner. That’s right! A cubic inch of fat weighs far less than a cubic inch of muscle, so a pound of fat would need a larger container than a pound of muscle. Your body is that container and the more muscle you have, the smaller it is, even if you don’t shed a pound. You’ll walk more gracefully and move with ease when you add cardio, balance and flexibility training.

  • Some exercises combine strength-building and cardiovascular training. HIIT—high intensity interval training—while doing strength training is one example. Kettlebells provide all types of training in one workout.
  • If you’re doing strength training, don’t do it every day. Strength training makes microtears in the muscles that need to heal. Your muscles need between 48 and 72 hours to recover. Alternate between cardio and strength-building or work different muscle groups each day.
  • If you want to keep your calorie-burning fires running high, vary the type of workout you do. The body becomes efficient the more you do the same exercise and that leads to efficiency and burning fewer calories.
  • Strength training causes EPOC—Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. That makes your body continue to burn extra calories long after you’ve finished your workout and left the gym.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness

How Often Should You Workout As A Beginner?

How Often Should You Workout As A Beginner?

If you’ve never worked out or had a regular program of exercise, it’s difficult to judge how intense, how long and how often to workout as a beginner. It’s one reason working with a personal trainer is so popular, especially when you’re also trying to learn the proper form for each exercise, while building a workout that provides all types of fitness and works all parts of the body. One question is relatively simple to answer. How much time do you spend exercising?

The amount of time spent depends on intensity.

You need between 75 minutes and 150 minutes of intense exercise or 150 minutes to 300 minutes of moderate exercise. If you can only gasp out a few words while working out, and not talk, the exercise is probably intense. Most beginners should do moderate workouts initially, especially when learning new exercises. Setting the pace to moderate gives you time to focus more on form, which is necessary as a beginner.

Use off days for active recovery.

Since most beginners will be doing between 150 and 300 minutes, you can divide that time between the gym and active recovery, which includes cardio. The 150 to 300 minutes could be divided into three days at the gym, with walking, cycling, swimming or running between those days. You could also add dancing one day a week, or another type of active sport you enjoy. Even hula hooping with the kids is great exercise.

Get in all types of exercise.

Make sure you begin every workout with a warm-up and have balance, flexibility, cardio and strength training each week. Some people focus on strength training one day a week, while others include it twice a week. Whichever you do, make sure you have from 24 to 72 hours of rest between sessions to give your muscles a chance to heal. When you do strength training, you cause microtears and the healing process is what builds muscles. Doing strength training too often can actually cause muscle loss.

  • Clock your minutes doing extra walking if you have time constrictions. Park further from the store, take the stairs or walk to a location that’s closer, rather than drive. For family fun, don’t get out a video, but go to the park, zoo or woods for a picnic and a walk.
  • When you first start working out, don’t overdo it. Injuries and sore muscles can set you back. You’ll be better off sticking closer to the 150 minutes than reaching for the 300, then increase it as you get fitter.
  • Don’t get discouraged or try to force instant change. It took a while to get out of shape, so it will take just as long to see real change occurring. Focus on how you feel at each workout and how much easier it gets after a few weeks.
  • Get variety at every workout. Include flexibility and balance training at each session or add stretches to your morning routine. Include cardio three days a week and strength training once or twice a week.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness

The Best Running Shoes For Sprinting

The Best Running Shoes For Sprinting

If getting into shape was one of your 2023 resolutions, you may be one of the hundreds now jogging, sprinting or running in Irvine, CA. Not all running shoes are the same. Walking shoes differ from shoes you use for jogging and those you use for sprinting. Sprinting has explosive movements for a shorter period. It helps burn fat, while building the legs and abs. Because it’s high intensity for a short period, it is a HIIT—high intensity interval training—workout, since the intensity volleys between high intensity and a recovery pace.

Sprinting requires lighter footwear, since the goal is to get from start to finish the fastest.

Over 40 years of studies show that the lighter the weight of the shoe, the faster you’ll run. One specific recent study showed that for every 3.5 ounces added to the running shoe, the performance decreased and made the runner about 1% slower. However, if your goal is to burn calories and get into shape rather than competition, there are many reasons to avoid a lightweight shoe.

When is a lightweight shoe not recommended?

If you’ve suffered from foot injuries previously, you might not want a lightweight shoe for sprinting. Heavier shoes with a firmer insole add weight, but also absorb shock better, making them good for older individuals and those with joint problems. Generally speaking, wearing heavier running shoes offers better support and can prevent injuries, such as Achilles tendonitis or plantar fasciitis. Studies show that having heavier, but more cushioned shoes can be the best option for those who have had previous injuries to the foot and joints.

Getting traction is important.

When you’re sprinting, your heels are most often in the air, with just the balls of the feet doing most of the work. Spikes encourage good traction, so you use the power of the legs more efficiently. Its design allows the sprinter to get more push with each step. Spikes can either be made of plastic or hard rubber and fit under the front of the foot. Its very design forces the runner onto the balls of the feet. Spikes can be used on asphalt, gravel and dirt, but avoid using them on concrete.

  • Lighter weight shoes wear out faster. The rule of thumb is to change shoes every 300 to 400 miles, but with lighter weight shoes, you should change them every 200 miles. Instead of three months of use, you might need to replace them in a little over a month.
  • Some people opt for two pairs of shoes, heavier ones for training and lighter ones for racing. You do have to make sure that the designs are similar to avoid affecting your gait.
  • Where you’ll be sprinting makes a difference. If you’re running on trails, you want one with a rock shield to protect the foot, but those running on hot asphalt need to maximize airflow to cool the foot.
  • Stick with a shoe that feels comfortable, but still provides stability. It’s especially important if you’re exercising for fitness, not to actually race. If you need extra cushioning, get shoes that provide it and you’ll be more apt to stick with your exercise program.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness

What You Need To Bring On A Hike?

What You Need To Bring On A Hike?

With all the noise and nerve racking urgency of living in the big city, it’s nice to get back to nature and go on a hike. Hikes can vary from a short day in a nearby wooded area to traveling to a remote location that takes several days to reach. What you bring on a hike will vary by location, the amount of time you spend and the weather in that location. You also need to know how remote the location is and whether there is any type of access to cell networks or supplies along the way.

There are some essentials you need for every hike, even for day trips.

Even if you aren’t planning on staying out after dark, have a headlamp with extra batteries, just in case. If the area is sunny, have sunscreen, sunglasses and clothing to protect you from the sun. A change of clothing and first aid kit are also important. Take a GPS device and personal locator beacon, a map and compass.

The deeper into the woods you go, the longer the hike and the worse the weather, the more you take.

If your hike is longer than an afternoon or expecting more radical weather changes or inclement weather, you need more clothing, more food, more water and definitely shelter. Pack at least two days of extra food and water beyond what you expect to use. It can make the difference between surviving if there’s a sudden change in weather or an injury Energy bars, nuts and jerky are good options. They’re lightweight and don’t require cooking.

Having adequate water is important.

Dehydration can be a problem, especially in higher temperatures and on rougher terrain, where your body works harder. However, water is extremely heavy to carry, so you have a conundrum if your trip is relatively long. If you’ve planned ahead and are hiking along a known trail, you already know whether there are fountains to refill bottles on the way. Have a collapsible cup and a way to treat water, either straws or tablets, or by boiling, which requires a stove and container for storage.

  • A lot of things can cause a need for a change of clothes, even for day trips. If the weather suddenly turns cold and wet, you want lightweight layering that’s insulated and waterproof. Extra socks, gloves, and underwear shouldn’t be neglected, either.
  • An emergency shelter doesn’t have to take up a lot of space. It can be an ultralight tarp, space blanket or a large trash bag. Lightweight ivy sacks can cost under $10 and weigh about 4 ounces.
  • Making sure you have a method of starting a fire is important. Take matches or lighters in a waterproof container. There are fire-starting kits available that are lightweight and easy to use.
  • Taking repair supplies, like duct tape, zip ties, safety pins and cordage is also important. A portable cell phone charger can also be an important addition to your gear. As an extra precaution, always give someone an itinerary of your hike.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness

Is Walking Enough Physical Activity?

Is Walking Enough Physical Activity?

Clients come to Next Level Fitness in Irvine, CA, for a number of reasons. Some want to learn the art of discipline, others are looking for an outlet and to have some fun, while still another group come specifically to get fit. Getting fit and staying fit comes from engaging in physical activity, but not everyone does it. Whether it’s dancing, walking or doing Muay Thai, you need to move your body to live a longer, healthier life. There’s no question about that. How much exercise do you need to achieve that goal and while something is better than nothing, is walking enough?

If you’re just starting a program of fitness.

While we create programs for people no matter what their level of fitness, some people simply don’t feel comfortable in a formal program of exercise. They want to get into a better shape before they start. Here’s one way walking can help. It can be a way to ease into fitness, without stressing the body too much at first. It’s a tool to start conditioning the body and also a good supplement for a regular fitness program.

Walking won’t provide all types of fitness training.

Walking is excellent cardio exercise and lower body strength, but it does nothing for upper body strength and flexibility. You need all types of fitness. While it’s a good starting point and can help build endurance, it’s just a starting point and supplement. If you’re older or have health issues and limitations, walking can be an important part of your fitness program but building strength and maintaining muscle mass is still important. Even seniors will benefit from the exercise provided walking and can benefit in many ways.

Use walking as a starting point and supplement to a fitness program.

Walking is cheap, easily available and the perfect way for anyone out of shape to start a fitness program. It’s a good supplement to a more formal program. You can go to the gym a few times a week and supplement your workouts with walking, providing a well-rounded program. You won’t get the flexibility training with just walking, nor have the strength building power to help build muscles and maintain bone strength. You need more.

  • Adding other types of exercise to a schedule of walking not only makes your workout more well-rounded, but it also makes exercise more interesting. Learning new skills boosts your brain power and keeps you mentally agile.
  • You can add benefit to your walk by modifying the speed. Vary the speed between high intensity and recovery to create a HIIT workout. Pump your arms vigorously or carry weights, to add to the benefits and burn more calories.
  • Always warm up and cool down when you exercise, even if you’re just walking. Focus on your posture and make sure you hold your head high with your shoulders back. Walk briskly, pace makes a difference.
  • Walking outdoors can provide many benefits, including vitamin D from the sun, but you need to dress appropriately for the weather and take extra safety precautions, including having a friend know your path or track your phone.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness

Fat Loss Benefits Of Plantains

Fat Loss Benefits Of Plantains

Plantains may look like a green or yellow banana on steroids, but they taste quite different from bananas. These 12-inch long banana style fruits taste more like a vegetable than fruit, with a starchy, rather than a sweet taste. While bananas can be eaten raw, plantains need to be cooked no matter what stage of ripeness. Both have a similar nutritional profile, besides looking the same, but plantains are starchy and lower in simple carbs. That’s what makes them good for fat loss, which is one of the benefits of plantains.

You have to eat plantains cooked.

You use plantains much like you’d use potatoes or sweet potatoes and can cook them in a variety of ways. Of course, their weight loss benefits and health benefits will vary, based on how they’re prepared. They contain vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and fiber, which provide health benefits. However, as bananas ripen and go from green to yellow, those complex carbs and resistant starch change. Much of it becomes glucose, which digests quickly. On the other hand, plantains are primarily resistant to starch and other fiber. You’ll feel fuller longer, while feeding the beneficial bacteria in the gut. The microbes in your gut then turn it into short-chain fatty acids.

The resistant starch helps your metabolic health.

Insulin resistance can cause a vicious cycle. If you are overweight, it increases your risk for insulin resistance. However, insulin resistance also makes it harder to lose weight. It’s also the precursor to diabetes. Resistant starch improves insulin sensitivity, keeping your blood sugar levels lower, including after meals. If you eat food with resistant starch in the morning, it will also help prevent a blood sugar spike at lunch.

You’ll lower your risk for diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and obesity.

When you consume the resistant starch in plantains, it helps you keep your blood sugar low and maintains the feeling of fullness longer. Choosing the unripe–green—plantain, over the yellow—ripe—one is the best choice for weight loss. It offers more dietary fiber and is far lower in sugar. However, you need to eat it boiled, rather than fried. The fried plantain carries with it all the extra calories you’d have with any fried food.

  • Make a healthy stew using plantain. Combine water, sliced unripe plantain, baby spinach, meat, black pepper and other seasoning. Bring to a boil and let cook until meat is thoroughly cooked. It’s excellent for weight loss.
  • Plantains also contain vitamin B6 and vitamin A. Just like bananas, they’re a good source of potassium, so they’re also heart healthy.
  • If you have digestive issues, such as hemorrhoids, diverticulitis or IBS, the fiber in the plantain can help keep your stool softer, preventing constipation. You can use unripe plantains to replace rice.
  • You’ll get a lot of extra antioxidants in your diet if you add plantains to your diet. It is high in vitamin C. Studies show that the lower your vitamin C levels, the more potential there is for cancer and premature aging.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness

Will "Cheat Days" Ruin My Progress?

Will “Cheat Days” Ruin My Progress?

Eating healthy is the key to losing weight. Whole foods are normally lower in calories and higher in nutrition than processed foods, so in most cases, it’s hard to eat too many calories. The caveat is that sometimes you want a sweet treat or a greasy burger. If you go out with friends, it’s hard to resist a New York pizza, burger, wings or cheesecake. Cheat days are meant for those times. While you’re eating more calories, some believe cheat days offer some benefits.

In theory, cheat days help keep your metabolism high.

People who include cheat days as part of their weight loss program justify it as a way to keep their body burning more calories. When you restrict calories and boost calorie burning, your basic metabolism may start to slow to preserve the body. With a planned cheat day, you boost the calorie intake temporarily, so that slowing doesn’t occur. In the long term, that theory hasn’t been proven, but in the short term, cheat days may boost metabolism up to 10% for 24 hours.

Cheat days don’t make you feel deprived and do replace your glycogen stores.

If you’re out for an evening on the town, eating pizza with the gang is almost a must. If you’re dieting and don’t have cheat days, it can spoil the whole evening. In this case, consider cheat meals instead of cheat days. You are given permission mentally and can enjoy the meal but return to your stricter eating plan the next day. That pizza also may have helped your workout by replacing the glycogen stores in your muscles.

Cheat meals can help you stick with a healthier eating plan.

Cheat meals or cheat days can help you stick with a healthier eating program. You aren’t “breaking” your diet, since it’s planned, so you don’t experience that “clean out the refrigerator regret eating” that can sometimes occur. It also helps you plan ahead and stay social. You won’t be poking at a salad while the gang eats a loaded pizza and can join in the fun. Remember, cheat meals should be used sparingly and the longer you stick with the healthy eating plan, the less you’ll probably use them.

  • Don’t overdo on your cheat days or cheat meals. Eat more slowly and savor the flavor of each bite. It gives your stomach a chance to message the brain that it’s full, so you’ll probably eat less.
  • You can’t starve yourself into a better body. Losing weight is all about making smarter decisions when it comes to food. One meal won’t make a huge difference. It’s consistent behavior that changes things.
  • Cheat meals can provide psychological relief for some people. It makes them feel more like they’re changing habits and not giving up everything they love. It can be the key to a healthier lifestyle.
  • If an addiction to sugary treats is your weakness, a cheat meal or cheat day can set you back. It can trigger cravings for a few days after the cheat meal, since sugar tends to be addictive.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness

Major Benefits Of Magnesium

Major Benefits Of Magnesium

One of the top benefits of magnesium is its involvement in all the biochemical reactions in the body. Your body is literally a laboratory where hundreds of chemical reactions are occurring every minute. When you consider every cell in the body contains magnesium, you understand how important it is. Most of the magnesium in the body is in the bone, approximately 60%, with the rest in soft tissue, fluid, such as blood, and muscle tissue. It aids in reactions like creating protein, converting food to energy, repairing RNA and DNA, and regulating the nervous system.

If your blood sugar levels are low in magnesium, it may raise your risk for diabetes.

There’s a correlation between low blood levels of magnesium and the ability to regulate blood sugar levels. One study followed people with type 2 diabetes and found that 48% of them had low blood levels of magnesium. Other studies showed that people who ate foods higher in magnesium lowered their risk of type 2 diabetes significantly. Other studies showed that magnesium supplements also improved insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance is the precursor of diabetes.

Heart health and anti-inflammatory benefits come from magnesium.

Inflammation can cause a lot of problems throughout the body, including high blood pressure and heart disease. Studies show that taking magnesium supplements can decrease the markers of inflammation. Other studies show a lack of adequate magnesium leads to oxidative stress, another factor that indicates inflammation. Magnesium supplements also help lower blood pressure, which improves heart health and reduces the risk of stroke. The supplements also improved blood cholesterol levels. It can prevent arterial plaque build-up and prevent hardening of the arteries.

Thinning bones and muscle cramps can occur with low magnesium.

Magnesium is important for bone health. A deficiency is associated with an increased risk for osteoporosis and increased bone fractures. Approximately 55% of the body’s magnesium is found in the bone. Signs of magnesium deficiency are muscle cramps, twitches and tremors, since magnesium is involved with cell communication and nerve signals. Remember, your heart is also a muscle and requires a balance of magnesium and calcium to contract and relax to avoid cramping.

  • Magnesium deficiency can affect your mood. It can lead to anxiety, depression, apathy and severe signs including delirium and coma. Magnesium shortage can cause nerve damage, which also may increase mental illness potential.
  • Migraines can occur for a multitude of reasons; one theory is magnesium deficiency. One study found that people with migraines are more likely to also have a magnesium deficiency.
  • Chronic exhaustion and fatigue may occur if you have low magnesium levels. Studies also show it can increase exercise performance and increase power and muscle mass.
  • Improving your magnesium level should include eating food with more magnesium, such as pumpkin seeds, peanuts, almonds, popcorn, dark chocolate and dark leafy greens like spinach.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness